Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Several factors threaten the Colorado squawfish in the San Juan River, including destruction of floodplain habitat, reduction of spring flows, alteration of natural hydrography, flow fluctuations for hydropower production, fish passage barriers, cold water temperatures below mainstem reservoirs, competition with and predation by nonnative fishes, and contaminants.
As a result of the biological opinion or the section 7 consultation on the Animas-La Plata project, a 7-year research program on the San Juan river is under way to provide information for recovery of the endangered fishes, including the Colorado squawfish, and for assessing future water depletions. In FY 1991, research efforts included adult monitoring and radio tracking, early life history research, secondary channel studies, habitat/flow studies, genetics surveys, water quality surveys, physical habitat surveys, and distribution and abundance surveys. In FY 1992, studies were initiated to identify and quantify limiting factors, determine environmental requirements, and quantify response of the fishes to experimental flow regimes. Additionally, the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has been initiated. Major elements of this program include genetics management and population augmentation; protection, management, and augmentation of habitat; water quality protection and enhancement; determination of interactions between the Colorado squawfish and nonnative fish species; and monitoring and data management. State and Federal agencies are contributing money, expertise, and/or in-kind services to achieve the goals of both programs. With regard to section 7 consultations, Bureau of Reclamation water sales received a no-jeopardy biological opinion, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs received a jeopardy opinion on its Navajo Irrigation Project, Blocks 1-8 (although the Fish and Wildlife Service suggested reasonable and prudent alternatives for modifying the project).
Because of the many threats to Colorado squawfish, a variety of measures will be needed for the species' recovery, including extensive habitat restoration, control of nonnative fishes, improvements in water quality, and reintroductions of the species to historic habitats.
Because differences exist among the issues and interests in San Juan River sub-basins, several programs are being conducted to recover the Colorado squawfish and the river's other endangered fishes. Two programs are being conducted in New Mexico, the San Juan River Seven Year Research Plan and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program:
San Juan River Seven Year Research Plan: This program is being conducted to determine the physical, chemical, and biological factors limiting native fish populations in the San Juan River and to provide management options to conserve and restore the endangered fish community. Federal agencies participating are the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. State participants include the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Colorado Division of Wildlife, and New Mexico Game and Fish Department.
San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program: The purpose of this program is to protect and recover endangered fishes in the San Juan River basin while water development proceeds. Federal agencies participating include the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The States of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico are also participating, as is local government. Other participants include the Navajo Nation, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Indian Tribe, and non-Federal water development interests.
Original plan approved 3/16/78; revised 8/6/91.